Christmas 2020 has been very different for us as, I assume, it has for most of you, Dear Readers. At our house, we have not one, but two empty chairs around our dinner table.
Back in May we lost The Boy and our two granddaughters’ mother is a nurse at a local hospital. We haven’t seen much of her since the pandemic started, even though she lives with us. She has worked to the point of exhaustion as have most of our newest heroes, the healthcare frontline workers.
Every night around the dinner table, when they raise their sweet blessings for our food and other things, the girls pray that Corona goes away and they get to spend more time with their beloved mother.
With all the losses out there, Santa has tried to make Christmas as normal as possible, but in this year when nothing is really normal, even good old Santa has had a hard time of it. But there was a Christmas from a long, long time ago on a street not so far away called Flamingo, that was the most unusual one of all.
I’ve been fortunate enough to see sixty-two Christmases come and go, and they all have been special, but the one I remember the most was the year I turned eight.
Early Christmas morning, my three brothers, The Sister and I ran down the steps toward the living room to see if Santa had left us anything. We weren’t really sure if he had made a stop at our house because, even though we all had tried, none of us had been all that good that year.
Fighting our way through the door, we stumbled into the living room at the same time and suddenly stopped and stared. We had never seen so many presents in one room before! Each of us had a stack of presents ten boxes high, and if that wasn’t enough, in the corner of the room were five huge boxes, one for each one of us kids.
Santa must’ve made a big mistake dropping off all those gifts, because none of us had been good enough to deserve so many, but that didn’t stop us from tearing the gold and silver paper off and ripping open the boxes. Unfortunately, what we found wasn’t what any of us expected, making for the most memorable Christmas from my childhood.
Big Brother James opened one of his boxes and pulled out socks! I laughed at him until I opened one of my boxes and in it was four pairs of underwear. Twin Brother Mark opened a box only to find two long sleeve dress shirts. The Sister’s boxes had a new pair of shoes, two dresses, and a purse.
When Older Brother Richard opened his box and found new pajamas, I laughed and asked, “Okay, funny joke. Where are our real presents?” I’ve never forgotten what happened next.
The air in the room was still as my question hung unanswered, not a word was spoken. Like a balloon slowly deflating, Dad’s smile faded away as his face grew long and sad. He turned away from us kids, and went into the kitchen. We all thought he did so to retrieve our real presents, but years later, when asked, he told me it was so he could regain his composure. You see, in the yet to be opened five huge boxes over in the corner, were five new bed pillows.
The next day was Sunday and we went to church wearing all new clothing we received as gifts the day before. I’ve never forgotten that Christmas. As a child, I thought it was the worst presents my parents could ever give us, but looking back as an adult, especially after this year, I realize they were actually the best gifts I’ve ever received. None of us knew it at the time, but that was the year my parents almost lost everything.
Last week The Wife, our two granddaughters, Little One and Sweet Caroline, viewed the Christmas Star right after sundown. We told them of its story and that the last time it was seen was over 850 years ago.
Walking back inside, it was time for the girls to get ready for bed. While they did, I told them the story of our Christmas socks. They laughed at our gifts from that year. Then I finished this story and I’m proud to say they understood.
Aside from one new toy each, our parents hadn’t given us what we’d asked for — they had given us something so much more. They’d loved us so much, they’d given us what we all needed.
Now that 2020 is finally behind us all, here’s wishing you all get what you need in the coming year. And if a smile is what you need, come back here each week to read about the kids who lived on Flamingo Street and all the adventures and misadventures they still have yet to tell.
[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001.]